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South Cheshire 20

Sunday 7th Sepetember by Michael Mansfield This year three RRs; Eleanor, James and me, tackled this race which took place in early September to conveniently fit with our training programs for October marathons.  Surely there can be no other good reason to travel so far to race over such a distance ?   Chris had run this last year as part of his marathon training and he strongly recommended it.  I now know why. The course HQ outside Crewe was easy to access and not far from the M6. The drive from Leeds took about 90 minutes on empty early Sunday morning motorways through clearing Pennine mist. Arriving an hour or so before the run start allowed me time to pick up and pin on my race number and take on some pre-race fuel and then meet up with my RR co-runners. In fact this turned out to be a really well organised run over mostly vehicle-free  roads. With only 200 runners it felt like there were almost as many marshals and helpers.  And they made a real difference with their  vocal support and energy supplements (jelly babies, wine gums etc) which were very readily given out. The course had a flat run out and run in, and three notable climbs in the middle section, but nothing too testing for those used to the hills of Leeds and surrounding countryside.  From about 13 miles onwards the run was mostly downhill or flat.  The route had sufficient interest  with scenery, rather impressive residences of the financially very secure, and a good number of people on road bikes going by, for those interested in that type of thing. The final 200 metres was  across a playing field. I used the race to check out my marathon pacing strategy and so treated the first half of the run much like a standard LSR. This meant I was near to the back of the field but running fairly comfortably and able to talk with other runners, most of who were also in marathon training.  I planned to pick up my pace from about the half-way point.  The first hill came along about a mile before that and feeling strong I increased my effort from there.  This meant leaving behind the group I’d been chatting with, which was a shame. On the other hand, this negative split tactic meant that I spent the rest of the run slowly catching and then overtaking a series of runners ahead of me. That felt good.  Also my progress through the field wasn’t impeded by slowing to a walk or stop for the purposes of eating and taking on fluid.  So that has built my confidence.  I finished feeling strong too, although as soon as I crossed the finish line there was absolutely nothing left to give. My official time was quicker than I’d hoped and planned for, at a couple of minutes over 3 hours, but of course the real event is yet to come. Good things about this race:  Really friendly and well marshalled.  I got to run and talk with many others training for marathons. A sufficiently challenging non-flat route which is perfect for a negative split.  The right time in the year for training for an autumn marathon.  Confidence building, for me at least, as I confirmed I can run at least 20 miles with no wall.  Nice (erm ?) orange finishers T-shirt. Less good things: It’s a fair way from Leeds, but there aren’t many 20 mile events to choose from. Would I do it again ?  Personally I got much more than I had hoped for from doing this race. If I was planning to do an October marathon next year I’d make every effort to build this in to my preparation. michael mansfield